Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you I do not like the St. Louis Cardinals. When I was six years old, the Cardinals defeated my beloved Detroit Tigers in the 2006 World Series. I was crushed. I’ve held a rather strong dislike for the team ever since.
I also am a moderate fan of the L.A. Dodgers, so when it was announced that the two teams would play each other for the wildcard slot, I thought for sure I would be rooting for the Dodgers. It seemed like a no-brainer. I would love to see them win back-to-back championships, something that has not been done since the New York Yankees’ 1999 and 2000 wins. Yet, when I saw the final score ending the Cardinals’ World Series bid, I couldn’t help but feel disappointment.
The Cardinals had a weird season. They struggled in the middle of it, seemed to find their footing, and then out of nowhere they went on a wild seventeen game-winning streak in the last few weeks of the season to secure their wildcard spot. I can’t stress enough what an accomplishment that was; a winning streak that long had never been done before in their club’s history.
The Dodgers, in comparison, had a fantastic season. They finished with a winning percentage of .654, the second-highest in baseball. The only reason they were in the wildcard spot in the first place was because the strongest team just happened to be in their division: their bitter rivals, the Giants. If the Dodgers had been in any other division in the MLB, they would have won it. They were the expected winners of the match-up, and they won. They had the better record, arguably the most talented team of players in the MLB currently, and the highest current payroll. Many expect them to make, if not outright win, the World Series.
But for me, and I assume many baseball fans, it’s about the story as much as the stats, and the Cardinals had the best Cinderella story this postseason. You could not help but root for a team that played so frantically in the final month, who most had counted out this summer as not postseason material. The magic of baseball is in the unexpected. What happened on Oct. 7 was a dramatic game to be sure, with each teaming fighting until the last inning. But ultimately, it was a David vs. Goliath matchup and Goliath won. And even as someone who likes Goliath, part of me wonders if I should be rooting for David.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Detroit Tigers fan, and I’m too used to rooting for the underdog. Maybe I’m projecting watching my own team fall short over and over again. And sure, the Cardinals have the second most World Series wins out of any team in baseball history and a pretty high payroll themselves. But it doesn’t change the fact that I was overcome with a surprising sense of sadness upon learning that the team was done for the season. I got swept up in the magic, thinking about what a great story it would make for a team who had to win seventeen straight games to make it to the wild card, take the whole thing, and shock baseball fans and analysts everywhere. It seemed unlikely or even improbable, but I wanted it to happen. And it didn’t.
Adding to the weird disappointment was the fact that the Cardinals announced less than two weeks after this game that they were firing their manager Mike Shildt, who had been with the team in different capacities for eighteen years and still had one year left on his contract. It was a pretty shocking move that no one saw coming, including Mike Shildt. He apparently found out that he was being let go the day it was announced to the public. Fans and pundits alike were confused, bewildered, and sad. Watching his emotional goodbye statement in which he struggled to hold back tears was just another reminder of how depressing one of the most hopeful stories of the postseason had turned out.
So in a sentence I never thought I’d write, my condolences to the St. Louis fans out there: you’ll get them next time.